Colorado breast cancer patient documents emotional journey through photography

BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) – Faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, a Colorado woman explored another way to deal with the trauma: photography.

Jill Turner was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer, in June 2020. The next month, she began undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

Faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, Jill Turner explored another way of dealing with trauma: photography. (Credit: Beth Sanders)

“You always think it’s going to happen for someone else,” Jill said. “When it happens to you, it’s like life stands still.”

There was anger. There was grief. There were fears that her life would be shortened.

“I asked the doctor, ‘What if I say no? What if I do not want to undergo chemotherapy, surgery and radiation?'” Jill recalled.

Her doctor explained that the prospects for her in five years were 50%. It was then that Jill understood what she was going to do.

“I have to keep fighting and I’m willing to let go of the breasts, the tissue, the nipples.… I can let go of it because it’s more important to be here for my children, for my friends, for my family, ”Jill said.

“I am not done fighting; I have not yet finished creating problems, ”she said.

A diagnosis, then a double masectomy

The fight was fierce, the fight long. A double mastectomy was planned so she would never have to deal with breast cancer again. Even though she knew what to do, it made no less difficult.

“To take something from my body that I always thought would be there, it’s part of what makes me, me … part of my identity, part of my perception of myself. It is disturbing, ”said Jill.

I was very stuck in what society considers beautiful – as acceptable.

Jill Turner

The battle with breast cancer is a very personal journey; it occupies an intimate part of your body and attacks one’s self-esteem in the process. For Jill, her breasts were something that made her feel attractive, feminine.

“I chose to have implants put in when I was in my 20s. I thought that was what I needed to do to be complete, to be perfect,” Jill said. “I was very stuck in what society considers beautiful – as acceptable.”

Jill wanted to document the whole journey, to capture the emotions she felt inside. At that point, she reached out to photographer Beth Sanders. The photographer was excited to help tell Jill’s story.

Faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, Jill Turner explored another way of dealing with trauma: photography. (Credit: Beth Sanders)

“We kind of just started working together and coming up with these concepts of what she would express in these pictures,” Beth said. “It was beautiful to see her show up in her pain, because there is so much beauty in pain. Not that we want to feel it, but it was really about expressing the loss that was happening and should happen. ”

Captures loss, grief, sadness – and healing

Photoshoots were a creative outlet, but they were also therapeutic, allowing Jill to really exploit her emotions and start accepting herself as she was.

“Beth was able to capture some of those raw emotions that I didn’t really feel like dealing with that I was trying to suppress. She was able to take it out and catch it, ”Jill said.

I think this is where healing comes in – letting others see.

Beth Sanders

Throughout the course of the collection, the images capture loss, grief and sorrow, but they also show a sense of acceptance and healing.

“There’s a real strength in being able to show up and get other people to see you in your pain, your story,” Beth said. “I think this is where healing comes in – letting others see.”

Jill realizes that she is not alone in this fight.

“I was not aware of how many women are actively undergoing treatment. The more I talk about cancer, and the more I share, I’m still amazed at how many people have been personally affected by any type of cancer, Jill said. “You are not alone.… You want bad days, you have to feel those days, but there are lights. There are brighter days ahead.”

Beth Sanders is putting together a collection of Jill’s portraits on her website. There you can also book your own sessions to document cancer travel.

Jill shares more of her journey on her Instagram page.

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